I saw Dan, my Witch Doctor, Tuesday at noon. "How've you been?" he asked as we walked back to his room at the chiropractor's office where he rents space.
"If I may be completely frank," I said, "for the last three weeks I have been a complete fucking basket case."
He chuckled, catching the spirit of my outburst, but he also knew I meant it. I had been a complete fucking basket case.
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, right after it happened—right after my life went from seeming pretty normal and liveable to seeming fraught and terrifying and distant. I didn't want to go into it any more when I was in the throes of the anxiety, because, well, it really sucked. And I didn't want to just sit here and write about my life really sucking. And even during the anxiety, I wasn't about to do absolutely nothing. But now that I seem to be pretty much through the haunted forest, here are some of the things I've been experiencing.
- Lots of migraines (primarily the visual part, not the nausea and hurting head part, except once).
- Lots of low-grade nausea, throughout the day and throughout the week between treatments. Much more than I'd been experiencing by the end of my Taxol, which was none.
- Blood sugar issues—intense hunger and hunger dopiness, and then a bit of food coma dopiness as well, as soon as I'd eaten. No ability to function without regular intake.
- Left inner ear issues left over from my cold in March, which caused some equilibrium issues, and a scary episode of vertigo.
- A general feeling of disconnection from the world, much like being drunk, but minus the slurring words, the stumbling, and, of course, the fun.
- My right eye is still a mess—fluid under the cornea and a growing cataract.
Dr Jason keeps saying, when I see him, "You remember how you felt last year, right? When you were sick? Well, you tell me if you're starting to feel that way again." And then Dr Specht said, "Now all we need to worry about is your brain!" and I put those two things together and thought Check. Done! Worried about the brain!
So for the last three weeks then, up until seeing Dan on Tuesday, every single thing I was experiencing was about my brain. The migraines, even though I was feeling incredibly stressed (a trigger) and I've gotten them for almost 20 years, long before the cancer, they were all about my brain. The vertigo, even though I've had experiences with my ear being plugged before, and even though I could induce vertigo by plugging my nose and blowing, that was all about my brain. The nausea was OF COURSE all about my brain, because that, even though it felt different last year, was, for a long time, the only symptom I had that anything was wrong. And then I rationalized that yes, I remember how I felt last year, but my body is, in fact, much fitter right now than it was a year ago, and so OF COURSE it will feel different, and so ALL THESE THINGS I'M FEELING MIGHT JUST BE MY BRAIN!!!
I tell you, it was exhausting.
I am not against having emotional responses to things, although in general I think I'm pretty even keel—what was untenable was having weeks of completely uncontrollable emotional responses. I did an I Ching reading right before seeing Dan, to get some insight, and it was
"KEEPING STILL, MOUNTAIN: Still your emotions through meditation. Receiving this hexagram is a sign that you need to quiet your emotions so that you can think clearly." Oh, really.
ANYWAY. It seems that the main issue, according to what Dan could ascertain, was that something was up with my amygdala, the little part of the brain involved in emotions of fear and aggression. Generally, when it's functioning correctly, a stimulus comes in and the amygdala says either "yes, FEAR THIS!" or "no, I think you can let this one by." My amygdala was saying only "FEAR THIS," every time anything even remotely concerning, or even simply unusual, occurred. As a result, my system was being flooded with adrenaline, which made me hungry and contributed to the migraines. Dan did his tapping, cleared up a few other issues, and I have been feeling increasingly normal ever since.
I have spent at least 30 minutes in meditation each of the last three days to help ease out the last of the tension. It seems that even the dogs like the calming atmosphere in the house during meditation time.
I cannot describe how relieved I am. I am no longer afraid of interacting in the world. I am not wondering when the next bout of dizziness is coming, and whether or not it signifies growing brain tumors (I am, again, confident that it is not.). I am not hanging onto my equilibrium—both physical and emotional—with the extremities of my will.
I am, once again, living, and loving, life.